Two adult voices, Graff and General Levy, discuss Ender once again. The General is not sure that they want a boy who would dig through the Giant's eye, but Graff points out that "what matters is that he won the game that couldn't be won." They decide to promote him from the launch group ahead of his time. They also note that the children seem less like children and more like "history. Napoleon and Wellington. Caesar and Brutus."
At dinner, Alai and Ender discuss Ender's ability to manipulate the desks' security system. Ender agrees to help Alai with his desk, but when they return to the barracks, Ender finds that he has been transferred to Salamander Army. He is upset to be promoted, now that he has a true friend. He hugs Alai "almost as if he were Valentine," and Alai whispers "Salaam" and kisses him on the cheek. Ender appreciates the tenderness and senses that the kiss and word are somehow sacred to his friend.
On the way to Salamander, Ender visits the Game Room to play the mind game. He starts in Fairyland and finds himself on a playground surrounded by children. They laugh and taunt him, and when he leaves the playground and wanders into a forest, they follow him, transform into wolves, and kill him. Ender figures out that he needs to drown them one by one in order to move on. This leads him to a door to the "End of the World." The door opens onto a cliff, and Ender notices the beauty around him. Surrounded by such perfection, he does not care whether he dies or not in the game, so he jumps off the cliff. A cloud catches him and takes him to a room in a castle with no apparent exit other than windows that look out "over a certainly fatal fall." A snake there says, "I am your only escape. Death is your only escape." At this point, Ender's screen tells him that he is late for Salamander Army.
At Salamander, he is mocked for being so small, and only Petra Arkanian is friendly even though his reputation has preceded him. His commander, Bonzo Madrid, has "beautiful black eyes and slender lips," but Bonzo will not let him participate in any battles or practices, being worried that Ender will hurt Salamander's good record. When Petra mocks him by saying, "He's all heart," Bonzo slaps her across the face, leaving drops of blood where his fingernails cut her. Petra offers to teach Ender things that he should know as a soldier, in the battleroom during free time. Ender accepts and thanks her; she will be his friend.
When Ender meets up with Petra outside the battleroom after breakfast the next day, they talk about the mechanics of the battlerooms and the fact that the teachers do not tell the children everything. The realization that the teachers lie about some things brings Ender to the conclusion that the other armies and the other children are not the real enemy; the teachers are. Petra teaches Ender how to shoot.
In the battleroom, Ender learns by watching Bonzo and the soldiers. He studies the way Bonzo commands, learning both what to do and what to do differently. He also considers the formation of the toons, the subgroups of soldiers in the army (generally in groups of ten with one leader): the toons are too formal, too rehearsed, while more fluidity would give them an advantage.
That night, Ender goes back to his old Launchie barracks to get his younger friends to practice with him. He teaches them techniques from the armies and practices his new skills. Bonzo disapproves but technically can do nothing, so they come to an understanding in Ender's favor, but one that saves face for Bonzo before the other soldiers.
Ender watches Salamander battle ineptly with Condor, although the game is fairly even. He quickly discovers that the most obvious and useful orientation in the null gravity is to consider the enemy's gate as "down," and he maintains this orientation throughout the rest of the novel. This idea alone gives him an advantage. In the battle, he is shot, and he instinctively pulls his legs up to ensure that only his legs get frozen. Thus, most of his body remains mobile, and he is only scored as "damaged." The game is so close that Ender could have given Salamander a draw if he had been allowed to participate.
Ender continues practicing with Petra and observes two more battles. On his birthday, he remembers home and Valentine, becoming extremely homesick for a night. The next morning, in a battle with Leopard (commanded by Pol Slattery), Ender notes some of Pol's good ideas, such as keeping his army constantly moving. Ender feigns being frozen, and at the end he breaks his orders, shoots several Leopards, and forces a draw.
Bonzo trades him to the Rat Army, led by "Rose de Nose," even though Ender has usually been at the top of the standings of individual players. Bonzo also slaps him hard across the face and socks him in the stomach. Ender tells Petra that they can no longer practice together, leaves, and signs up for a self-defense class, just in case Bonzo or someone else tries to beat him up.
The opening conversation is between Major Anderson and Graff. Graff tells Anderson to think of every possible way to alter the battleroom--unfair positioning of stars, uneven forces, late notification--to force Ender to become the best commander he can be within the shortest amount of time. Anderson worries that changing the battleroom will ruin the whole school, so Ender better be "the one." Graff points out, however, that if it is not Ender, there will be no adequate commander when their fleet arrives at the bugger homeworlds. Major Anderson threatens to tell the Hegemon and the Strategos what Graff is doing, but he relents.
Ender arrives at the disorderly Rat barracks. Rose de Nose is Jewish, and due to a superstition that Jewish generals never lose wars, Rose has an attitude. Rose's only three rules are "Do what I tell you and don't piss in the bed." The third rule is implied: winning each game is the most important thing. Rose encourages him by ordering him not to practice with his Launchie group or use his desk until he has frozen two enemy soldiers in the same battle. Again, Ender's reputation has preceded him; Dink Meeker chose him for Dink's toon in Rose's army. Dink tells Ender to ignore Rose's orders; his toon works independently of Rose's commands anyway.
Rose is surprised to learn that Ender's high individual standings are due to Bonzo's restrictions, which kept Ender unfrozen but out of the fighting. He tells Ender, "You're not only short and incompetent, you're insubordinate, too." In their first battle, Rose tells Ender to jump through as soon as the door opens and go straight toward the enemy's gate. Ender freezes several of the Centipede Army soldiers before becoming disabled. This success leads to a new strategy across the school: instant emergence into the room. As Ender joins in the fighting, his standing sinks to fourth place, but he soon learns enough to make it back to first place.
Ender talks with Dink one day, and Dink notes his own realization that the teachers are the enemy. Dink also explains that he has read old books about "normal" kids, which showed him that the Battle School boys are not "normal." "Children aren't in armies, they aren't commanders, they don't rule over forty other kids, it's more than anybody can take and not get crazy." Dink notes that no one there ever cries or talks about home.
For Ender, some of the other students do seem to be the enemy. Some commanders suggest that Launchies who practice with Ender will be blackballed, and those who do practice with him get bullied. The remaining Launchies in training are confronted by the older boys, which starts a fight in the battleroom. Ender's hand-to-hand combat training helps him do well in the fight.
Ender returns to his desk to play the fantasy game. At the room in the tower, he again sees the snake and grabs it. He finds a mirror, but when he looks he sees Peter's face with blood "dripping down his chin and a snake's tail protruding from a corner of his mouth." Ender is startled and tries to move or break the mirror. Finally he throws the snake at the mirror and shatters it, but dozens of tiny snakes came out and bite Ender, killing him. Ender gives up for the moment.
The next day, several commanders back up Ender regarding his extra practice sessions. They agree to defend his sessions and the students. That night, 45 boys show up instead of the usual 12.
Ender dreams about the mind game and is disturbed that the computer knows so much about him. He insists to himself that the "game tells filthy lies. I am not Peter. I don't have murder in my heart." Ender's biggest fear is that he is a killer, and he considers that what makes the teachers and the generals like him so much is that in addition to his skills, they need a killer for the bugger wars.
Ender thinks that Alai's whisper of the word "Salaam," and his kiss on Ender's cheek, might be a part of some forbidden or repressed religion. Ender remembers the only other time someone showed such sensitivity to him, when his mother prayed over him when he was just a baby. The word "Salaam" literally means "peace," but in this book it is used in a special context, suggesting tenderness between two best friends. While Ender does not know what the word exactly means, he realizes its importance to Alai, and he sees its significance for their friendship. "That was what Alai had given him; a gift so sacred that even Ender could not be allowed to understand what it meant." Ender thinks that after something so sacred, nothing can be said, so the two best friends share a look of understanding and then Ender leaves. This moment, like Ender's departure from Valentine, is one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in the book. Ender and Alai, at this point, share a deep friendship, and it is a shame that Ender is being made so independent that he will not be able to maintain the friendship later. In the place of Alai, but in a much lesser quality of relationship, Ender becomes friends with Petra. Ender and Petra also train together, and their friendship tends to be more instrumental.
Throughout the novel, Ender tries to avoid violence but always ends up getting dragged back in. He originally walks away from the taunting children in the fantasy game, but when they turn into wolves and kill him repeatedly, he must figure out a way to kill them. The computer makes him kill them somewhat gruesomely in order to proceed, and Ender complies rather than give up the game. This pattern is, in some ways, much like the bugger war; in the war, Ender must use violence to kill the buggers, even though he hates to fight.
By this point, the computer is providing scenarios that no other student has encountered. This part of the game is solely Ender's game, and the symbols in the game directly reflect Ender's life and mind. Ender really is at the "End of the World" in that the future of humankind seems to rest on him. Ender proves willing to jump into the abyss, but he does so without the hope of surviving; he is content with the beauty and willing to see what happens. In the bugger war and some of the battles, Ender must be willing to jump "down" and do the best he can, regardless of the usual rules.
In the castle, Ender refuses to accept the snake's claim that death is his only escape. He has escaped before, without death, and he will continue to fight on.
As Ender is walking to his new barracks for the first time, he ponders whether, after he finds a way out of the tower, the "end of the world" actually means that he could just live a normal life in one of the villages he could see below. He realizes that he has never really "just lived," and he wants to try. It is extremely sad that such a young boy, not quite seven, has never had a "normal life" and probably never will. But this is again the soldier's choice: he has foregone domestic tranquility in order to be a "tool" of society and serve a greater good.
Ender continues to remember his launch group, training with them in his free time. Even though the Launchies are so mature for being so young, Ender stretches them beyond what the adults have perceived they are capable of achieving. Ender can teach what Petra taught him, but he also teaches what he has learned on his own initiative. Those who train with Ender have an advantage.
In Chapter 8, we learn for the first time that the humans are going to be invading the bugger homeworlds, instead of the other way around. We now see that Ender needs to be developed into an aggressive, attacking commander rather than merely a defensive one. All the civilians have been assuming that the next bugger war would be another invasion of Earth, but the International Fleet officers know otherwise. This is another example that supports Ender's belief that the teachers are the enemy; they never tell the children the whole story.
Dink Meeker is just as important to Ender's development as Petra was. Dink's acceptance of Ender's talent is important in that his abilities are being supported by his immediate superior. Dink not only lets Ender participate in the battles, but also uses Ender's ideas and tactics when teaching his toon new strategies. Dink is unusually willing to let the younger boy contribute to his battle plan; he recognizes Ender's worth, and he often studies Ender's practices with his launchies to get new ideas. Thus, Dink not only becomes Ender's friend and mentor, but also he becomes one of Ender's followers. This relationship will be extremely important later in the novel as the teachers build Ender's team for commanding their fleet.
Dink is also an important character because he is the only one at Battle School who talks to Ender about life back home. This conversation becomes an outlet for Ender to miss Valentine. Dink also expresses significant facts about Battle School, like the fact that no one ever cries and that pretty much everyone is crazy. He is willing to discuss his frustrations with the setup of the school, and his distrust of the teachers closely mirrors Ender's. Dink deals with the situation by refusing to become a commander. Ender, on the other hand, thinks that Dink should become commander in order to change the way things are done.
Dink also shows that he has been thinking more broadly, telling Ender, "Listen, Ender, if the buggers were coming back to get us, they'd be here. They aren't invading again. We beat them and they're gone." He suggests that the only reason the IF are claiming that there is still going to be a bugger war is to remain in power--this is a classic manipulation of the population by means of fear--but Ender does not agree. Ender decides, "The buggers were real. The threat was real." And while Ender is right that the buggers are still out there, Dink is right in saying that the buggers are not planning to invade against humanity again. One of the most important outcomes of the conversation, however, is that it plants an additional seed of doubt in Ender's mind. He will "listen more carefully to what people meant, instead of what they said. It made him wise." He already has been discounting what people explicitly say in favor of determining what they actually value, but he is starting to do so on a wider, more strategic level.
Chapter 8 ends with Ender's question to himself, "What difference does it make if I hate the part of me that you most need? What difference does it make that when the little serpents killed me in the game, I agreed with them, and was glad"--this is a terrifying question for a seven-year-old. The teachers should be worried about his being suicidal, like Pinual, as they were when he kept returning to the Giant's Drink. Ender knows he is being manipulated to develop a part of himself that he hates, and he would prefer to live a peaceful life or even to die in obscurity rather than kill mercilessly. Still, Ender needs to be reminded that while he does have some of Peter in him, it is also Valentine's personality inside him that makes him maximally valuable to the teachers.